VP Binay leads team to China with ‘full report’ on hostage-taking incident

August 27, 2010 10:58 am 

By Gloria Jane Baylon

MANILA, Aug. 26 — Vice President Jejomar C. Binay leads a high-level delegation to Beijing and Hong Kong "anytime soon" to meet with counterparts to directly convey Manila’s condolences on the death of eight Chinese as well as present a full report to Chinese leaders of official investigations into the August 23 hostage-taking incident in Manila, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said on Thursday.

Binay's delegation includes DFA Secretary Alberto Romulo and Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda and they sre leaving “as soon as possible,” said DFA spokesperson Eduardo Malaya. Chinese embassy spokesperson Sun Yi confirmed that the departure will be undertaken as soon as arrangements in the host country are completed.

In an e-mail to the press, Malaya said: ”While the delegation is ready to leave anytime, there is an understanding between both sides that the Philippine delegation will bring a full report of Monday’s incident.”

In Beijing, at a press conference conducted by China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) also on Thursday, a spokesperson said “the most urgent task is to have a complete investigation of the matter as soon as possible.”

Binay’s team is waiting for the latest updates from concerned Philippine law officials on how competently the police force conducted the rescue negotiations that took all of 11 hours yet unable to maximize the number of persons rescued.

Concerned Philippine authorities, which include the National Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Justice and the Philippine National Police “are now conducting a proper investigation with a view to completing the report as soon as possible,” DFA said.

The remains of all the dead have been repatriated to Hong Kong on Wednesday via a chartered flight arranged by the Philippine government. On the same plane were their relatives ad well as most survivors, all seriously injured.

At least one still remains in a Philippine hospital and is expected to stay for at least two weeks, reports said.

The MOFA spokesperson said that both China and the Philippines “are in constant touch…in close coordination” about the hostage-taking incident."

Replying to a reporter’s question at the same press conference, MOFA also said, without elaborating, that the Ministry “has emphasized China’s position (on how the chilling incident affects Beijing-Manila relations) to the Philippine side many times.”

It could be inferred that MOFA was restating that even at the very start, it wanted the victims’ funeral and mortuary expenses, hospitalization and medical bills as well as the accommodation and flight fares of their relatives fully shouldered by the Philippines.

The Philippine Government has agreed to and met these monetary considerations, even preparing a Buddhist-style send off for the dead at the airport on Wednesday afternoon.

On a government-to-government position, not only has the Philippines apologized profusely to not only the families of the victims but has talked Tuesday morning with Hong Kong Chief Executive Sir Donald Tsang to convey his condolences and updated him on the latest at the time.

While Tsang’s autonomous Hong Kong government has banned Hong Kongers from traveling to the Philippines, Beijing’s ambassador to Manila, Liu Jianchao, has emphasized that China will not restrict its citizens from touring the Philippines and that State-to-State relations will not be affected by what DFA considers “an isolated case.”

Mainland China ranks fourth in terms of tourists to the Philippines, while Hong Kong places sixth, for a total outbound travelers of close to one million, figures of the Department of Tourism show.

China has also asked that the Philippines insure the safety of tourists in the Philippines.

Liu expressed gratitude for how the Government tried to make the best response out of the tragedy.

The ordeal ended only when the hostage-taker, a despondent former police officer who had been dismissed from the service was felled by a police sniper’s bullet and followed-up with killer shots from a special attack force. (PNA)

V3/GJB

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